Who is Asean Johnson?
Pint-sized Asean Johnson,10, is an avid reader and aspiring footballer but unlike most fourth graders he is also a passionate advocate for equal access to education for minorities and under-served students.
Why is he on theGrio’s 100?
Johnson first caught public attention in May after his heartfelt speech electrified a crowd of hundreds at a rally protesting Chicago public school closures. His awe-inspiring oratory went viral and became an instant YouTube sensation.
“It was an impromptu, unscripted speech, spoken directly from the heart,” said his mother Shoneice Reynolds, who hails from the Washington Heights community on Chicago’s South Side. “Asean has never been afraid to speak up and say how he feels.”
What struck viewers most is his fiery passion, displayed through exceptional public speaking skills, as well a maturity beyond his years. He powerfully attacked Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s plans to close 50 of the city’s public schools in overwhelmingly African-American and Latino neighborhoods.
Thanks in part to Johnson’s impassioned speeches denouncing the mayor’s plan, Garvey M Elementary School — Johnson’s school — was spared.
“The issue is that all the money is going to charter schools and the public schools don’t get nothing [sic],” Johnson said. “They are closing public schools and putting charter schools first.”
Following the wave of Internet fame, Johnson was invited to give a talk at the “Realize The Dream” rally honoring the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. At 9, he was the youngest speaker at the historic march.
“I am marching for education, justice and freedom,” he said from a handheld microphone to an ecstatic crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial Saturday. “All over the country public education is under attack. Every school deserves equal funding and resources.”
What’s next for Johnson?
He has already won some key endorsements for mayor of Chicago in 2025, when he will be 21 years old. He told theGrio that he likes football but aspires to be a politician or scientist to help preserve water. Whatever the case, Johnson has a bright future ahead of him. He is a high-achieving honors student who sits in on advanced classes in Math and English.